After completing an apprenticeship to a confectioner in 1873, Milton S. Hershey founded a candy shop in Philadelphia, which failed six years later. After trying unsuccessfully to manufacture candy in New York, Hershey returned to Pennsylvania, where he founded the Lancaster Caramel Company, whose use of fresh milk in caramels proved successful. In 1900, Hershey sold his caramel company for $1,000,000 (equal to $27,936,000 today) and began to concentrate on chocolate manufacturing. In 1903, Hershey began construction of a chocolate plant in his hometown, Derry Church, Pennsylvania, which later came to be known as Hershey, Pennsylvania. The milk chocolate bars manufactured at this plant proved successful, and the company grew rapidly.
— Via Wikipedia. In other words, Hershey was a kickass serial entrepreneur. He started his first company at 16, and when it failed at age 22 he started another one in the same space. After a $28m exit at age 43 he started his third company, which 110 years later now has a market cap of $16b.

Funding is Friction

David Rose occasionally shows up in my inbox by way of Columbia’s BVC mailing list. This week he hit a nerve:

The bottom line is that raising money from anyone, including both angels and VCs, is really, really tough. Since only the top 2% of companies looking for angel funding succeed in getting it, that means you have to be one of the top two deals out of a hundred who are looking for the same money…and many of the others have companies that are much further down the path than you are.

He’s looking at fund raising like it’s some sort of goal. Fund raising is a friction to your success. A necessary one, sometimes, but a friction nonetheless. Most technology startups can choose early on to spend time looking for seed money or build a prototype instead. Assuming you could achieve either, in one scenerio you’d end up with no business and some money, while in the other you’d have a tangible product and a hungry market vying to invest in its success.

The time and distraction of the fund raising process must be worth the benefits, right now, to your business. Outside investment is not an achievement or a prerequisite to success. It’s just one of several strategies that can help you out along the way.